It’s almost here…Kidlit Summer School starts soon. Isn’t this banner just adorable?
Sometimes I’ll read a picture book that really stands out to me. Above the normal expectations of having a fabulous story (with plot, and character devolvement, etc.), some picture books also have exceptional elements – maybe the humor (I love a funny picture book), a clever twist, overwhelming emotion that tugs on my heartstrings, language so lovely it sings, or an ending that brilliantly loops back to the beginning.
Which brings me to, Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner. This book is so full of poetic techniques and wonderful lines that I find myself reading it over and over and over again. It’s like a play date at a poetic playground! For me, this book is the mentor text to use for language.
Whether it be the alliteration,
“He saluted the silver-haired man…”
“He waved to the couple with the baby on the balcony.”
“My young ‘uns!” he called to the kids crowding the corner.”
“Unloading the garbage, not a single praline wrapper ever stayed on the streets. And those spotless streets, oh, how they sparkled.”
“He clapped the covers like cymbals and twirled the tins like tops.”
“People and pets, parks and playgrounds, washed away.
Schools and shops, streets and streetcars, washed away.”
“The barbers, bead twirlers and beignet bakers.”
Or the most genius of lines:
“A gumbo of mush and mud.”
And two of my favorites…
He dried his eyes.
For his spirit and will were
“They streamed into the Crescent City.
A flood of humanity.”
I could go on and on, but then I’d have the whole book retyped here and I’d ruin the magic that awaits you in Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner.
Susanna Leonard Hill’s first ever Valentiny Contest is here! The contest: write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone is grumpy!
GRUMPY BEAR’S VALENTINE (198 words)
by Dawn Young
Mr. Bear did not sleep well; his pillow way too lumpy.
He had nightmares.
He woke up scared.
So Mr. Bear was grumpy!
And when he reached for honey, and then realized he was out,
his tummy growled,
he sneered and scowled,
he moaned and marched about.
He huffed and puffed, with cheeks bright red, he crawled back into bed,
to take a nap
then heard TAP, TAP
A sound that hurt his head.
He shouted “STOP!” and so it did, soon he began to snore,
but then a ring
a ding, ding, ding.
Who dared approach his door?
He stomped his feet and roared, “Who’s there?” The ground and gravel shook.
No voice was heard,
yet something stirred.
Intrigued, he took a look.
Laying there, outside his lair, with honey and a teddy bear…
a heart-shaped note,
that read, I quote,
“For you, because I care.”
His heart swelled up, he couldn’t speak, his chin fell to his chest,
He’d gotten mad,
and now felt bad,
he’d scorned his thoughtful guest.
Then tracking prints, he trailed them to a cave beside the pine,
he tip-toed in
and with a grin
he asked, “Will you be mine?”
Winter break was filled with great times, fabulous food and hours and hours of movie watching with the kids. Typically we watch G-rated, kid-friendly movies and animated holiday classics. But now that our kids are teens we’ve moved onto more “mature” movies with some rather racy content such as Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2, The DUFF and The Hunger Games series. And although I miss the days of Mickey’s Once (and Twice) Upon a Christmas and the miserly ol’ Miser Brothers, fortunately, our kids still love some of our tried and true movie favorites, such as Home Alone, Elf and The Santa Clause. So, one night, when my girls suggested watching Home Alone, although I lay on the couch completely exhausted, I optimistically agreed.
I stayed awake for most of the movie, but ended up power-napping for a bit, unfortunately snoozing through the church scene, where Kevin talks to his scary neighbor Old Man Marley about forgiveness and family and…well, after that, the movie just wasn’t the same for me.
I’m a sap when it comes to sentimental, happy and heartwarming stories and movies. My kids shoot me that “you’re crying again?” look every time something emotional happens, knowing tears will be flowing and pretty soon I’ll transform into a tissue-wielding, nose-running, mascara melting mess.
Even though I’ve seen some of my favorite movies twenty or so times, (at least) and I know full well what’s going to happen, I still cry. But on this particular night watching Home Alone, I didn’t cry. I felt empty, disappointed, left hanging, and without closure. Sure, Harry and Marv got locked up and Kevin’s mom came home but the part of the story that makes me watch it over and over again, the part where Marley and his son are reunited at the end fell flat for me because I didn’t see and feel the build-up that got them there – that hopeful church scene. The normally laugh out-loud, crazy, paint can flying, doorknob singeing, rope cutting scenes didn’t carry the movie for me. I missed (what I consider) the “heart of the story” and Home Alone just wasn’t the same.
As a writer, I know, we all know that the heart of the story matters most but, wow! miss it in one of your favorite movies and you’ll see just how much it matters!
We also know to show and not tell, that showing is much more powerful than telling. So, you can take my word for it and try to imagine the effect that missing this scene had on me, or you can experience the impact for yourself.
Do it. Try it. Grab your favorite book and skip the lines/pages that tug on the heart, our put in your favorite movie and fast-forward past the scenes with the heart-wrenching lines (or take a power-nap, at least you’ll feel refreshed), and you’ll find that matter how fun a story is, no matter how many funny and clever lines are perfectly delivered, no matter how much your stomach hurts from laughing, what makes a movie watcher and a book reader, go back time and time again is the heart of the story.
Happy New Year!
Susanna Leonard Hill’s 5th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST is here! The contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children, using the words costume, dark, and haunt.
A BIG HUNGRY GRIN
by Dawn Young (97 words)
On Halloween night as their party drew near,
the minnows, preparing for tail tingling fear,
got dressed up in costumes; one fattened his fin,
flashed needle-knife teeth and a big hungry grin.
The party was rockin’ the old sunken ship,
still haunted by souls from an ill-fated trip.
Emerging at midnight, those piratey-ghosts,
spooked scale after scale off the guests and the hosts,
all desperately darting out into the dark,
until that wise minnow disguised as a shark,
circled the ghosts, ‘til the ghosts fled in fright,
leaving the minnows to party all night!
Yay, November 1st, is just around the corner which means it’s PiBoIdMo.
Picture Book Idea Month, where you come up with a picture book idea each day during the month of November. With PiBoIdMo, not only do you end up with a boatload of PB ideas, you get inspired by wonderful authors who, like you and me, may need a jump start to get their creativity into gear or just need a verbal hug 😉 There are opportunities to win fabulous prizes too, so sign-up and get inspired!
Summer School? Yes, summer school where you learn from some of the best for FREE!
This year’s’ theme is The Plot Thickens…sounds intriguing and exciting!
I’m proud and honored to be on the Board of Education for Kidlit’s 2015 Summer School program alongside Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Kami Kinard, Marcie Colleen and Leeza Hernandez. Join our fabulous community of people and get inspired by writers as passionate about kidlit as you are!
I’m thrilled to be guest blogger on Angie Karcher’s fabulous RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month)
As writers, we know we’ve chosen a tough business to break into, and unfortunately, we know it’s even tougher to break into if you write in rhyme. No matter how good your rhyme is, and how perfect your meter reads, we know that many editors and agents refrain from rhyme, making those seemingly insurmountable publishing hurdles even higher for rhymers.
And even though I enjoy writing in prose, deep down inside I’m a rhymer, rhymer;) I am determined to scale those extra inches, feet or miles because …
I’m All About That Rhyme!
Why is it that some of my favorite films are animated? Because so many times, their writers throw in lines with the most brilliant adult humor (and by that I don’t mean, inappropriate – I mean humor that adults will get and appreciate) that I can’t help but want to see the movie and hear those lines over and over and over again.
Mr. Potato Head: “Oh, really? I’m from Playskool.”
Rex: “And I’m from Mattel. Well, I’m not really from Mattel, I’m actually from a smaller company that was purchased by Mattel in a leveraged buyout.”
Buzz: “I’m setting my laser from stun to kill”
Woody: “Oh great, great. Now if anyone attacks us, we can blink ’em to death”
Mr. Potato Head: “Oh my little sweet potato”
Mrs. Potato Head: “….. oh it’s so nice to have a big strong spud around the house.”
Toy Story 3
Hamm: “Let’s go see how much we’re going for on Ebay!”
Helen: “I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.”
Bob: “It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.”
Helen: “It’s a ceremony!”
Bob: “It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”
I found myself saying “It’s not a graduation” when our kids “graduated from kindergarten.”
Some of these funny, adults-will-appreciate lines exist in picture books too. Here are a few:
In The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
The Wolf looked quite shaken,
But hollered, “Yo, Bacon. I’m not at all scared of your tricks.”
The “Yo, bacon” part of this line is so funny and clever that I just want to read it over and over and over again.
In Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zeitlow Miller,
Sophie says, “I’ll call her Bernice.” In response, Sophie’s mother says, “I’ll call for pizza.”
Ha! When dinner plans go awry, doesn’t someone always call for pizza?
Sophie’s mother tells Sophie’s father, “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables.”
So, be careful what you ask for when you wish for your kids to love vegetables…
Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Mama shows them how to prance.
And how to do the chicken dance.
Which makes any mom that ever did the chicken dance smile and of course relive those moments with the song then engrained her mind. (pointing at self)
One last kiss for each dear child.
She leaves the room…
and Mama runs wild!
Which means of course, doing her nails, reading a book and watching TV – exactly how a mom of 5 would go wild.
Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer
“The stuff on that poster isn’t true,” said Nugget. “My best friend is a shark!”
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GILLS?
SHARKS AND MINNOWS CAN’T BE FRIENDS!
HELLO – SHARKS EAT MINNOWS!
Nugget was shocked . (And apparently delicious.)
Ok, maybe finding that last line funny is a bit sick, but I do. It’s funny!
On Wednesday, Fang tried a different approach.
“Holy mackerel!” said Nugget.
So how funny is it that a fish is saying Holy mackerel?
When my kids were PB age (way back when) I recall reading the same book over and over and over again and I appreciated it when it was a book I enjoyed, one that was clever, and made me chuckle. When writing see if you can throw a brilliantly funny line in for your adult reader and gain a fan for life!